Neumarkt Brugg, Shopping Centre, Office Tower, Gabriel Droz, Brugg, 1971-1976, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut, Swiss Brutalism. Explore more on

Neumarkt Brugg

Words & Photography: Karin Bürki

Words & Photography: Karin Bürki

Just another brutalist monster? Next time you pass by Brugg by train, take a fresh look at the ‘bunker on stilts’.

Sitting right next to the Brugg’s main station, this concrete complex is a familiar sight to everyone who travels between Zurich and Basel by train. For most, it is just another brutalist monster dotting the midlands. But the shopping centre with direct access to the station, was once the centrepiece of a pioneering car-free master plan from the 1960s. Its implementation turned out to be less visionary. When the state-of-the-art Migros supermarket in the main building was finally inaugurated on 13 March 1975, the country was in the midst of an economic crisis. Its brutalist looks soon earned Neumarkt the nickname ‘bunker on stilts’.

Designed by Aargau architect Gabriel Droz, Neumarkt is divided into a long, flat rectangle with a shopping centre and multi-storey car park and a vertical section with two windmill-shaped office towers of different heights. A cantilevered window strip made of prefabricated concrete fins connects the two parts of the building in the terrace area. The smooth, streamlined tech façade of the towers, with its rounded corners, is a blatant nod to the economic centres of Zurich and Geneva, while the more robust shopping section, with its rough-hewn concrete facade, remains firmly rooted in the deep Swiss Mittelland.

Apart from a new aluminium cladding and general maintenance works, the bunker on stilts has so far escaped rejuvenation plans. And so the pioneer-turned-pensioner defiantly continues to wait for the next train.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place in 1971. Neumarkt’s owner, the supermarket giant Migros Aargau/Solothurn, ran out of money shortly before the completion of the base building and sold the property to Viktor Kleinert AG in December 1974. The shopping centre was inaugurated in 1975. Shortly afterwards, the construction of the two office towers began. They were completed in September 1976.
In the 1960s, the city council and a progressive group led by architect Hans Ulrich Scherer sought to transform the old town into a car-free “city area” with department stores, shops, restaurants and businesses. Remember, this was at the height of the car age, when greenfield shopping centres were booming. But the plan was also highly controversial. Years of bitter disputes over land and turmoil surrounding investors followed. In the 1980s, two more shopping centres were added. The area is currently the subject of a major regeneration programme.
Neumarkt Brugg, Shopping Centre, Office Tower, Gabriel Droz, Brugg, 1971-1976, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut, Swiss Brutalism. Explore more on

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

Hardbruecke Bridge, Zurich, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut. Explore more on
Palais des Congrès, Conference Centre, Swimming Pool, Max Schlup, Biel/Bienne, 1961-1965, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut, Swiss Brutalism. Explore more on
Three Loops, Betonschleife, Ralph Bänziger, Zurich 1977, Brutalism, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut. Explore more on
Franziskus House, abandoned former retreat house, conference centre and student campus, Otto Glaus, 1969, Swiss brutalism. Explore more on

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